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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gusinsky Warns of 'Totalitarianism'

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Media-MOST founder Vladimir Gusinsky said in an interview published Monday that President Vladimir Putin misjudged the role of a free press and would pay a heavy political price if his NTV channel were shut down.

In a full-page interview with the Kommersant newspaper — Gusinsky's first interview to the Russian press in months — the tycoon warned that Russia under Putin is sliding toward "totalitarianism," and the fate of NTV will serve as an indicator of whether Putin goes that far in his neglect of democratic principles.

Gusinsky also confirmed that CNN founder Ted Tuner and financier George Soros were interested in buying stakes in NTV and its sister media companies. Such a move — if it were indeed endorsed by the Kremlin — would give Russia a "chance to stop and not make a step toward a totalitarian regime," he said.

Gusinsky, under house arrest in Spain pending a decision on a Russian request to extradite him on fraud charges, said Putin presented Russia as a democracy to the world while resorting to "a regime of security services or simply lawlessness for internal consumption."

Click here to read our Special Report on the Struggle for Media-MOST.

"Putin believes that he is fooling everyone. … But he is not so much fooling everyone as the West is pretending to believe him," he said. "Today, NTV amounts to only a drop in the bucket of overall deception, but a drop that could become critical for him when Western politicians stop deluding themselves."

He said closing down NTV, Media-MOST's crown jewel and the sole independent national television station, would amount to "political assassination. No one would then forgive him. Not his own people, nor public opinion. Not over NTV."

In his interview, which Kommersant said he had insisted be published in full, Gusinsky denounced prosecutors as corrupt "rascals and idiots" intent on intimidation.

He also renewed stinging criticism of the Kremlin's campaign against Chechen separatists and said Russia ultimately would lose the entire region in the North Caucasus.

"Believe me, Putin will be remembered not as a man who united Russian lands but as a destroyer," he said. "Not because he is a bad man. But because he simply does not understand."

Spanish judges Monday rejected a request by Gusinsky, who holds Russian and Israeli passports, to travel to Israel to vote in the country's general election due to fears he may try to escape justice. (Reuters, MT)